Through a Jungian Lens

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Hera, Puer, and Hero and Mother-Complexes

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Man in the moon - son in the mother

I have been spending a lot of time going over and over James Hollis’ little book called The Eden Project and have been fascinated at that quest to return to the Garden of Eden, that place before consciousness that as humans we somehow project onto our significant others. Of course, as a man, I look at this dynamic and understand it viscerally as a return to womb, not the physical womb of mother, but the womb of soul that is embodied by the Great Mother.  I realise that I, as a man that carries this unconscious desire to connect with and be subsumed in soul gets played out in my relationship with my wife. Of course, there is a lot of magic in this and therein lies the biggest danger, disappearing into this web of magic so that I forget who I am and who my wife is.

Following the thread of the quest for wholeness that is the theme of Hollis’ book, I turned to James Hillman’s book, Senex & Puer in hopes of perhaps finding something there that would shed a little more light on the topic. I had expected to find something of clarity but found instead a whole new arena of confusion and messiness to consider, that of the larger nature of the Great Mother:

We are so used to assuming that the some of the great mother appears as a beautiful ineffectual who has laid his testicles on her altar and nourishes her soul with his blood, and we are used to believing that the hero pattern leads away from her, that we have lost sight of the role of the Great Goddess in what is closest to us: our ego-formation. The adapted ego of reality is in her “yoke,” a meaning of Hera, just as the words hero and Hera are taken by many scholars to be cognate. When outer life or inner life is conceived as a contest for light, an arena of struggles, success versus failure, coping versus collapse, work versus sleep, pleasure vesus love, then we are children of Hera. And the ego that results is the mother-complex in a jockstrap.” (Hillman, Senex and Puer, p 141)

The Eden Project thus takes on a deeper layer for me, one that goes beyond relationship and projections, a mythological level that defies neat and clean answers.


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